By John Denny

Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” I’m no Einstein, but I do know you can’t jump to a solution before you really understand the problem.

At Denny Civic Solutions, we call our process Going Deep. This means we take the time early on with our clients to understand the environment in which we’re operating, the organization and its leadership, past efforts, potential allies and opponents, and potential pathways to success.

Going Deep shouldn’t be frightening.  Nonetheless, sometimes the client believes there isn’t time, and we’ve (understandably) gotten responses ranging from “We have to act now,” to “How much will that cost?”  Sometimes, clients simply are not comfortable with outsiders digging deep into their internal processes.

Nevertheless, we believe our process pays dividends to our clients – spending the time up front to get a full understanding of the issue helps prevent going for the wrong solution.

Here are two examples of why Going Deep is important.

>Paralyzed by the Opposition – But What About Your Supporters?

A client was recently being unfairly criticized and attacked by a small (but vocal) group. The opponents, though small in number, were clever enough and loud enough to jeopardize some funding for our client.  The client had met with a number of consultants.  Several suggested softening their position to appease the opposition, or fighting back one-on-one. One even suggested they change the color of their brand.

After going deep with the client we discovered the client needed credible third party endorsements from a broad group of potential supporters that had never been organized or activated.  Our research showed that the best defense would be a strong offense based on these third-party endorsements. Had we jumped to an immediate solution, we may have suggested doing one-on-one battle with this small opposition. And while I don’t think we ever would have suggested just changing the client’s brand color as a solution, by taking time we came up with the right solution.

How Do We Win on This Playing Field?  Expand It.

Another client was locked into an ongoing battle – and locked into thinking that there was only one way to achieve their goal. It required convincing one governmental body to agree, but there was no way that was going to happen. The client pondered changing strategies, revising messages, and building a different coalition, all of which were very good ideas, but it all would have hinged on convincing this unwilling governmental body to agree.

We spent some time going deep on the client’s issue, its needs, and its strategy within the current environment. It was clear to us the client needed to expand the playing field by taking the battle to a different governmental body that would be more supportive and, ultimately, get them to their goal. The solution was right in front of us, but we had to do the proverbial 55 minutes thinking about the problem, before we could spend the proverbial 5 minutes finding the solution.

The moral of all of this: What may seem easy usually isn’t. When we talk about Going Deep, our clients benefit. It’s worth the time to it takes to fully understand the problem, and think through solutions.